14News Special Report: 911 Waiting Game - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

14News Special Report: 911 Waiting Game

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In an emergency like as stroke, every minute counts.

But in one tri-state county, some callers are having to wait longer for help to arrive and you may be surprised to learn why.

Northern Warrick County is a pretty rural place.

But the remoteness isn't keeping patients waiting.

It's not a problem with under funded departments, nor lack of equipment either.

Volunteer fire fighters from a number of townships say the problem is computers at dispatch.

Early morning, December 28, a 60-year-old Warrick County man woke up, unable to move, at his Folsomville Road home.

After a stroke, first responders want the patient to receive supplemental oxygen as soon as possible to reduce damage to brain tissue.

Volunteer fire fighters are trained to give that oxygen, and to help stabilize a patient until an ambulance arrives.

But they didn't have the chance this time.

Records show an ambulance, stationed in Lynville, beat them to the home.

Looking at a map, you'll be able to see why. 

The volunteer fire fighters were called from Sklelton-Owen, even though Pigeon Township Volunteer Fire Department was a lot closer.

"This incident you mentioned over here on Folsomville road, it was just down the road from us and our department didn't know anything about it," says Tom Hart of the Pigeon Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Hart says this was not an isolated incident.

There was an RV fire May 10, a car wreck June 23, a fire on Jockey Road June 30, a medic run August 3, all with, what Hart says are the wrong departments responding.

"We sat here at a meeting a month or so ago and we had a list of incidents," says Hart.

Skelton-Owen Firefighters are reporting the same kinds of wrong calls.

"A lot of the problem goes back to dispatch," says Kent Byers, Skelton-Owen's Volunteer Fire Chief.

Sheriff Brett Kruse oversees Warrick County Dispatch and he agrees Pigeon Township was closer to the Folsomville Road run, and should have been called.

But he says dispatchers are simply following the computer's prompts.

It's always been that way.

Plus, he says some of the responsibility falls back on the fire fighters themselves.

"There's no doubt," says Kruse. "Pigeon is in Selvin which is half mile north and three miles east of there, but that's what I'm saying, in this situation, Skelton fire should have said 'Hey Pigeon's a lot closer, send Pigeon Town also. Whoever gets there first will deal with it.'"

Mark Myers, Skelton-Owen's Volunteer Assistant Chief says, "I was under the assumption that they had probably been paged out and didn't respond. It happens. Our numbers are down, people are volunteering less."

"For years, we've sent letters saying we want to respond on everything," says Hart. "Seems like some dispatchers are pretty good at it and others are clueless."

So what's next?

Sheriff Kruse says a cooperative effort.

The chiefs will have to re-establish boundaries and submit them in writing.

"There is a process to go through to get things changed," says Kruse. "If a fire department wants something changed, then the chief submits it to us in writing and that's how it gets changed in the computer."

As for the Folsomville Road run that started it all, it turns out. The neighbor to the south, is a Pigeon Township Volunteer Firefighter.

A first responder who slept through the whole medical call that day, because his department wasn't toned to the run.

Leaving the victims to wish the meeting between chiefs and updates at dispatch had come a lot sooner.

The stroke-victim is still recovering from his stroke and his prognosis is up in the air.

As far as we know, there's no timeline for his return home.

Sheriff Kruse says the lightning strike that happened last summer took out their radio, computer, and phone system.

The system was restored a few days later, but Kruse says it was only a band-aid fix.

The system was so old anyway, they couldn't even order replacement parts.

Just last month, the first phase of a brand new $87,000 911-system was installed.

Dispatchers are still working out the kinks and getting up to speed on the new system.

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